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U.S. Navy Ships in ‘Unsafe’ Incident With Iranian Boat

WASHINGTON — Three U.S. Naval ships and a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter had an unsafe interaction Tuesday with an Iranian Navy vessel in international waters of the Strait of Hormuz.

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole, and dry cargo ship Washington Chambers were transiting the strait when the Iranian vessel paralleled the U.S. formation, shining a spotlight on Cole, the U.S. Navy said in a statement.

Image: USS Bataan
398123 05: USS Bataan, on a six-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, makes its way across sea, November 30, 2001. (Photo by David C. Mercil/US Navy/Getty Images) David C. Mercil / Navy via Getty Images

Shortly thereafter, the Iranian vessel trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation. The Iranian vessel then turned its spotlight on Bataan, scanning the ship from bow to stern and stern to bow before heading away.

During the incident, the Iranian vessel came within 800 yards of Bataan. Naval Forces Central Command assesses this interaction as "unsafe and unprofessional" due to the Iranian vessel shining a laser on one of the formation's helicopters.

Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles.